Luke 23: 32 – 43 The crucifixion of Jesus

Luke 23: 32 – 43 The crucifixion of Jesus

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’

The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’

But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’

*       *       *

Roman crucifixion was a horrible way to be killed. It was intensely painful, and the sufferer knew it would continue hurting more and more until they died.

St Luke records three things that Jesus said as he hung on the cross in agony.

The first was: Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

He prayed for those who were torturing him. His thoughts were not for himself but for others.

The second thing Luke records was:

Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’

Once again, his thoughts were for somebody else. What great compassion he showed to the condemned man hanging next to him! Jesus was continuing his ministry to bring sinners to repentance and then forgive them, right up until the very end of his life.

We will come to the third saying tomorrow.

What is going on in today’s reading? What is the message?

Jesus is perfectly displaying the love of God. He is giving every last breath to the service of God and his fellow men. To copy Jesus’ focus on God and on those around him is what we are called to do. It is all we are called to do.

Then we look at the cross. Who designed it? Human beings did. Who decided it should be used? The Roman Empire – made up of human beings. Who sentenced Jesus to die on it? Pontius Pilate – a human being. You see, human beings believe in punishment; we believe in retribution when something bad has been done.

And yet punishment for wrongdoers is the last thing on Jesus’ mind. He forgives those who crucify him – and I feel sure that the forgiveness extends back beyond the soldiers driving the nails through his flesh, to Pontius Pilate, and the Jewish authorities. None of them really knew what they were doing. He forgives the criminal beside him, even though the man says, ‘We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.’

God does not believe in punishment.

There is nothing conditional about Jesus’ forgiveness. The soldiers don’t have to stop driving the nails through his feet. The rulers don’t have to stop mocking him. The forgiveness is free and unconditional.

This is the climax of Jesus’ mortal life. Everything has led to this point. It is the most perfect and clear image we have of Jesus, and hence about God. And what does it say to us? It says, ‘God is love.’

GOD IS LOVE!

Prayer

Heavenly Father

You are love. You care for each one of us with a passion we can’t imagine. Thank you, Lord, thank you!

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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